The Honus Wagner card is extremely rare, as production was halted when the ballplayer refused to grant permission to use his likeness

By Rachel DeSantis
May 30, 2019 02:26 PM
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A rare Honus Wagner baseball card, one of just dozens made back in 1909, sold this week in a private sale for $1.2 million.

The 1909-11 T206 card was sold by the Southern California auction house SCP Auctions in its third hand-off in recent years, they confirmed.

The card previously sold in 2014 for $657,250, and again in 2016 for $776,750.

The most recent million-dollar sum comes despite the fact that the card was graded in just Good 2 condition out of a possible 10 by Professional Sports Authenticator.

According to PSA, a 2 grade means that the card shows obvious surface wear and accelerated rounding on its corners. It may also have scratching, scuffing, light staining or creases.

“It’s truly a remarkable amount for a card in PSA 2 grade,” SCP president David Kohler said in a statement. “It’s only a matter of time that any PSA-graded card in even lower condition will bring a million dollars.”

Honus Wagner
Credit: SCP Auctions

The card has been steeped in lore since its creation, as only a handful were made after the Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop objected to having his likeness featured.

Wagner was long rumored to be upset about his face being plastered on a tobacco product, as the card was issued by the American Tobacco Co. and inserted into packs of cigarettes as a marketing tactic, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

As soon as Wagner refused the company’s request, they stopped production, with Forbes reporting that just 75 cards are believed to exist.

The Hall of Fame, however, says that Wagner’s disapproval over tobacco use isn’t true, as he smoked cigars and chewed tobacco, and even let a cigarette company run ads that featured his name and likeness in 1909 during the World Series.

The Hall also rejects rumors that Wagner was upset that he would not be reimbursed for his image, claiming that he gave his permission to sportswriter John Gruber, along with a check for $10.

While the card is the first sports collectible to fetch more than $1 million in 2019, the highest-selling card ever was the “Jumbo Wagner,” which sold for $3.12 million in 2016, according to Forbes.